Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

On the road to southwestern Minnesota, a photo essay December 19, 2017

A former country school near Essig along U.S. Highway 14.


TWICE A YEAR, my husband and I head west from our Faribault home to my native southwestern Minnesota for gatherings with my extended family. We travel solely with destination in mind, not deviating to meander through small towns and explore. We get on Interstate 35 in Faribault, exit onto U.S. Highway 14 in Owatonna and then follow the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Highway all the way to our destination 2.25 hours away in Lamberton. That would be in Redwood County, just 10 miles east of Walnut Grove.

Near Janesville, this billboard sparkles in the morning light.

Everything along this route is familiar to me from the curves in the highway to the billboards to the farm sites and my favorite barns west of Springfield. While sometimes the drive can seem like forever, especially when wind whips snow to create iffy driving conditions, mostly I enjoy the rural route.

At the beginning of our trip, I photographed this farm site west of Owatonna. The farther west we drove, the greyer the skies became.

Enjoy this photo essay along U.S. Highway 14, aiming west toward the prairie into some of our state’s richest farmland as we headed back for the holidays last Saturday.

Red barns splash color into the rural landscape, here near Janesville.


An ethanol plant near Janesville breaks the monotony of farm fields.


Highway 14 takes us through New Ulm. I spotted this catchy and festive billboard on the west end of town.


You know you’re in the heart of farmland when you see a cash corn price posted on a sign, this one at Christensen Farms near Sleepy Eye.


This reindeer statue stands along the east edge of Sleepy Eye. It’s there year-round.


Weathered by wind and weather, this barn sits west of Sleepy Eye.


A row of vintage trucks are parked atop a hill on the east edge of Springfield.


One of my favorite barns on a farm site west of Springfield.


We reach our destination in Lamberton where grain elevators mark this rural community.


© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


24 Responses to “On the road to southwestern Minnesota, a photo essay”

  1. Lynn Kaehler Lally Says:

    Hi, Audrey,
    I am Lynn Kaehler Lally. I am Verona Kletscher Kaehler’s daughter. Art Kletscher was my grandfather. I love your blog as it makes me feel connected to home. I have missed many reunions because of other commitments. When I saw the Essig schoolhouse-I gasped in delight. My one room schoolhouse in Leavenworth township-just east of the family farm-was taken down. Plus my Mom was a teacher in a one-room school house. Thank you for reminding me of those good times. Maybe this year I will get to that reunion.

  2. Beth Ann Says:

    Fun trip today on your journey to Lamberton. There is always something to see along the way that catches the eye, isn’t there? Even on drives that you do repeatedly there is always beauty to be seen and captured.

  3. melirey96 Says:

    This reminds me of my trip to Lancaster PA .

  4. Almost Iowa Says:

    Cash corn $2.91. Ouch! That is hurting a lot of farmers.

  5. Jackie Says:

    I love all your photo’s of country! The barns, the harvested fields and oh, that reindeer… I really like him!

  6. Love the names of rural towns and townships.. Sleepy Eye, Minnesota, fits into that category.

  7. Valerie Says:

    Fun to see your photo essay Audrey. Thanks.

  8. Bernadette Says:

    I loved your annual road trip to southwest Minnesota. I feel much the same way when I travel from my sister’s home in the Twin Cities area down 35W to Owatonna and then on to the family farm 10 miles south, first on a paved road and thenthe final mile and a half on gravel road. Yes, each curve and intersection, especially from Owatonna to the farm, is like an old friend. Even the way the trees rise on the horizon and the exact position/space between a house and a barn remain familiar landmarks. Thanks again for a thoughtful piece.

  9. allenwilleford Says:

    Thanks for posting this. We left Marshall, Minnesota in to move to Vermont and in a way miss the corn fields and wind. I and my son returned to visit Marshall where he was born and moved away when he was just a few weeks old so this was incredible to show him where we started our journey.


  10. Missy's Crafty Mess Says:

    That old school house is beautiful I thought it was a house at first glance. I love that big old red barn too.

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